Mixed COVID messages leave parents and teachers concerned about schools opening

by Jake Cardinal

(July 23, 2020) – Over the past few days, Alberta has seen a jump in COVID-19 cases which has brought the amount of infected persons within the province to 1,251. The daily increases have not been this high since April.

Premier Kenney Urges Albertans to Remain Vigilant

“We should all be very concerned about the recent rise in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alberta,” Kenney said on July 21, “But it looks like some folks are no longer observing the public health guidelines.

“Maybe that’s because some people have just become tired of this whole thing, and we could all understand that. Or some believe that the threat of COVID-19 is exaggerated. Maybe some young healthy people aren’t worried about getting sick themselves.

“But whatever the reasons, the results are troubling. And so today, I plead with Albertans not to give up on the progress that we’ve made. The last thing we want to have to do is reimpose damaging restrictions on our economy and our freedoms.”

“Knock it off!” The Premier said.

School’s Set to Open in September

Jason Kenney then announced that K-12 schools will be reopening in September.

“The overwhelming evidence is that schools can be operated safely with little health risk for children and teachers and low risk of causing serious outbreaks in the communities that surround them,” the premier said, much to the dismay of parents and teachers in Edmonton and Calgary.

“This decision is ultimately about doing what’s best for students and parents,” Kenney said. “The vast majority agree it’s time to get back to normal, or as normal as we can, and to get kids back to school.”

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said “Come September, our school days will look mostly the same as before COVID-19, but with some modifications,” such as: frequent cleaning of washrooms and high-touch surfaces, installing hand sanitizers, grouping students by classroom, and creating a school day which accounts for physical distancing.

“We will continue to adjust protocols as required on the advice of our chief medical officer of health and in consultation with the education system. We are confident that our plan will work.”

If an outbreak were to occur at one of the schools, Alberta Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw said. “We will almost certainly identify cases of COVID-19 in students and staff in the fall. I want to stress there is no risk-free approach to living with COVID-19, yet we still have to learn to live with it.”

Jason Kenney also said the youth, especially children, “are at low risk of infection and very low risk of severe health outcomes from COVID-19.”

Calgary Makes Masks Mandatory

Calgary City Council announced that it will be mandatory for everyone to wear masks in public indoor spaces and public transportation.

Since Friday July 17, 2020 Calgary has jumped 431 in active COVID-19 cases, bringing the amount of cases to 635.

“We’ve doubled in one week, that’s exponential growth. If we double again in one week and again in one week, that means two weeks from now, we will have more active cases in Calgary than we had at the height of the crisis in April. So this is bad. We certainly have more cases now than we did in March when we shut everything down,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) chief Tom Sampson and strategic services manager with Calgary Community Standards Kay Choi presented the new bylaw.

While Choi spoke of exceptions for youth and those with “medical issues or disabilities that inhibit them from wearing a mask,” those without a mask in a designated masked areas could receive a fine of $200. “Enforcement will be used as a last resort to be deployed only as needed,” she said.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson had said that he believed the mask mandate should be a provincial announcement rather than municipal but Edmonton City Council is having an emergency meeting today (July 23) to further discuss the matter.

The regional breakdown of active cases on Wednesday July 22, 2020 was:

  • Calgary zone: 635 cases.
  • Edmonton zone: 236 cases.
  • Central zone: 153 cases.
  • South zone: 135 cases.
  • North zone: 86 cases.
  • Unknown: 24 cases.

Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.

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